We’re impressed by the way New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo moved to get a handle on gun violence this week after 51 people were wounded or killed across his state during the long Fourth of July weekend.
Frankly, it’s the kind of “the buck stops here” leadership on the gun violence issue that’s needed in Chicago.
Cuomo issued an executive order on Tuesday that declared the gun violence a “disaster emergency” and a public health crisis. That allows him to immediately muster the power and personnel of at least a dozen major New York state agencies and direct it toward solving the issue.
By taking up the issue of violence and essentially putting it on his back, Cuomo is taking full and public responsibility for solving the problem.
Meanwhile Chicagoans have been treated largely to a complicated and frustrating game of finger-pointing in which Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown keep alleging, with next to no real proof, that the city’s violent crime is caused by bail reform and lenient courts and prosecutors granting bond to offenders who immediately return to the streets to commit more mayhem.
Meanwhile, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and county courts Chief Judge Timothy Evans keep denying the allegations.
Enough with the blame game. Chicago needs the kind of decisive action we’re seeing in New York state.
It’s time for the mayor and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to stand side by side, publicly take ownership of the gun violence problem and develop a plan that tells the public exactly how the billions of dollars over which they hold sway will be directed toward solving it.
Gun violence ‘a public health crisis’
Cuomo’s executive order creates a violence task force composed of representatives from the state police and corrections department, but also from agencies that oversee health, mental health, domestic violence prevention, children and family services, labor, housing and economic development.
Cuomo announced he also will create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention, charged with coordinating and directing the effort. By executive order, he is setting aside $138.7 million for various prevention and intervention efforts, and jobs program for youth.
Meanwhile, the New York State Police will create a Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit to target illegal transport. Cuomo said that 74% of the guns used in crimes in his state came from elsewhere. Chicago, where 60% of crime guns come from out of state, can relate.
Cuomo’s order also seeks to improve relationships between police and the public and use science and data to pinpoint crime hotspots.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis, and we must treat it like one,” Cuomo said. “This declaration will allow us to give this crisis the full attention and resources it deserves.”
An encore for Pritzker and Lightfoot?
This isn’t to say Pritzker and Lightfoot have done nothing inventive to tackle the violence problem.
Pritzker’s office points out that the governor has increased funding for violence interruption and prevention programs by $50 million, and that this year’s budget invests $128 million in those initiatives.
And Lightfoot — whose administration already has an Office of Violence Prevention — said in a statement Wednesday, “Gun violence is a public health crisis that we must address with every tool available to us.”
But while these initiatives and words echo Cuomo’s efforts, they lack the combined force — the potential rallying power — of what’s happening in New York State. In New York, we’re feeling a sense of urgency at the very top.
That’s an important distinction as we reel from a summer of appalling violence punctuated by a holiday weekend in which twice as many people were wounded by gun violence here than were shot in all of the State of New York — even though we have just one seventh the population of the Empire State.
We remain impressed by the way Pritzker and Lightfoot worked together to beat back the crisis of COVID-19.
An encore is in order.
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